Terror – A Global Threat

by Shimon Peres
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

October 10, 2001

The attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon uncovered another side of globalization – globalization of terror.

Until now, we were aware of economic globalization. As the economy ceased to depend on land – its role as a national economy stopped. When the economy moved from land to science, technology and telecommunications – territories, borders, sea and land lost their importance and the economy became global.

Globalization of the economy is not merely a concept, but the result of fundamental changes in the world economy. Even as countries continued to be national in character, they transferred portions of their economy to private hands, for privatization, too, is not simply a concept, but the outcome of globalization.

The significant change in the nature of world economy detracted from the importance of armies, created primarily to protect land. No army is able to conquer science or cyberspace.

The task of traditional wars as a form of defense is gradually fading. Despite the fact that conflicts have not ceased. Above all the conflict is one between the connected world (that is thriving on hi-tech) and the disconnected world, entrenched in agriculture, poverty and nationalism.

Terror appeared to be, until now, the weapon of the poor, the bitter, the fanatics, of those living in yesterday’s world. It has become a very dangerous instrument, because modern arms, as well as civil planes, have fallen into the hands of anarchists, and in the name of a God that condones killings, they turned into mass murderers and exploit global means of communication to cross borders.

Therefore, the world is moving from a position of national strategy to a position of global strategy. From battles between armies – to a fight against dangers. From a world of enemies (nationalistic) – to a world of dangers (global).

Global danger has no borders. It can strike anywhere and at any time. Unfettered by human values, the atrocities it perpetrates is indiscriminate, limitless, slaughtering civilians, innocent people. It disseminates horror, it is the personification of present day Satan.

There is no room for compromise between evil actions and human behaviour. Should Satan-inspired terrorism be allowed to prevail, every water-well could be poisoned and every infant killed. It could jeopardize the freedom and security of the whole world, of every country, of every individual. It has the potential of creating pandemonium in domestic and international flights, dealing a fatal blow to tourism and ruining global trade – wreaking fear and undermining security.

How should it be confronted?

To start with, the magnitude of the danger should be recognized and its true nature identified. It is necessary to understand that terrorism will not cease until the hand of the last terrorist in the world has been severed. The present situation needs to be clearly perceived: we have armies lacking enemies; and we have dangers lacking armies. There is no other option but to adjust the whole of the global defense system to address the new world danger we are facing.

Take NATO as an example. An organization that was founded to contain the threat presented by the Soviet Union as it existed at the time, but since its collapse, NATO does not face any real enemy.

On the other hand, NATO has at its disposal extensive forces, large budgets and skilled experts that could be utilized to fight not yesterday’s foes, but today’s dangers. Naturally, NATO’s present coalition needs to be changed, to include Russia, India, China and Japan, that positioned themselves together with the USA and Europe in the new alliance against terrorism.

NATO needs to adopt a new strategy and create an appropriate coalition to fight global terrorism.

As opposed to conventional wars between armies in uniform and countries fighting at the front, the campaign against terror will be directed against enemies without identity cards and in locations that do not constitute a "front."

This is a battle that will have to be fought more in dim corners than in front lines. It is a conflict that will have to deal with lies, distortions, the hypocrisy of murderers, that promote terror even under the guise of clerics. A campaign that will punish countries that sponsor terrorism and support nations that oppose it.

This battle needs to be planned in a systematic manner. It must use every available tool that can thwart terrorist threats: precise and updated information; full cooperation; curbing of overt and covert incitement; scrutiny of sources of funds; control over media exploitation. And all this will have to be effected under difficult conditions, for democracy cannot, and must not, divest itself of its moral values, even in the face of such a bitter war.

It must be kept in mind that democracies were forced to devise anti-democratic mechanisms (armies, intelligence agencies and police forces) to defend life. Armies do not enjoy freedom of speech or regular workers’ rights; orders cannot be disobeyed. It is disciplined. Yet clearly, democracies cannot survive without military defense, which appears to contradict its very ideology. Naturally, an army in democratic countries has to be subject to the authority of elected institutions and does not operate as an independent entity.

The same steps that apply to a disciplined army must now be applied to the fight against terrorism, using the same formula and within the boundaries of the same restrictions. This battle against terror must be effective to protect life and safeguard freedom.

None of us seek to turn terrorism into a war, or as an excuse for a war, against religions, peoples or specific groups. The war on terrorism must focus only on terrorism. Because of this, clerics and other spiritual leaders should openly call on the devout to join the war against terror. They must prohibit acts of suicide by some for the purpose of killing many. The Almighty enjoined us to uphold the sanctity of life and prohibited us from justifying killings.

The new danger is great and terrible. It cannot be overcome with empty words or the threat of a single sword. Yet it must be defeated. And we shall prevail.